Bounce Back Better: Build Social Networks

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites have large followings. This is a reflection of the basic need of human beings for love and fellowship as well as the need to feel as part of something bigger than ourselves.

We are social creatures. We need each other, to form strong bonds. We need the safety net of social support systems when other areas of our lives come crashing down.

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Several years ago a home was burnt to ashes, leaving the family with no possessions. All clothing, food, school supplies, appliances and everything else in the house were destroyed.

There was an outpouring of love from a variety of persons. This love was practical, consisting of donations of food and other supplies. It came from other relatives, community members, friends and well-wishers, their children’s school fraternities, local government representatives and churches.

The family had all the support they needed to survive, eventually re-build a home and to carry on with life in a relatively short time. The ability of that family to withstand and overcome their adverse situation was greatly enhanced by their external support systems.

Similarly, when natural disasters strike, nations come together to assist those undergoing the misfortune. When Haiti and the Dominican Republic were hit by separate hurricanes some years ago, the Government and people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago graciously and generously assisted them.

The point is that we do not exist in isolation. We need to support each other and we need support from others to survive and thrive.

By working and playing together, our bodies produce hormones such as dopamine and serotonin that promote feelings of well being.

Supportive networks help us differentiate between what is and is not important.

Through our interactions with diverse people, we learn and improve skills that help us stay afloat during difficult times.

Just as we are advised to back up our computer systems, we need to build relationships as our human back-up systems  when tragedy strikes.

Tell me, do you have a strong support network?

6 Ways to Feel Great, Even When Things Are Not So Great.

We all have good days and bad. Some of us spend many hours lost in the mental haze of sadness, exclusion and depression.

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At critical points in our lives, we experience the heartache of a breakup, loss of a loved one, loss of a house or car or job.

It may even be that we become terminally ill or have a chronic disease or become seriously injured through an accident or crime.

Yet some people seem to be energized whether things are going good or bad. How do they do it?

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Apparently apart from adopting a positive attitude, there are ways that we can ensure we feel good although our situation may not be good.

I have found this works for me (when I do follow it). Sometimes though it is easy to lapse into laziness or complacency and not practice the steps diligently. This takes away from the feeling of being on top of the world in spite of all that may be going wrong in your corner.

  1. Eating properly

Most of us know in theory what types of foods our bodies need. The question is how many of us actually take our high school nutritional education into account when eating?

We all need to eat from the following main food groups – fresh fruits and vegetables; fish, meat products and eggs or soy products for vegans; peas and beans;  whole grain or high fiber cereals; ground provisions; and milk and milk products or substitutes.

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Of importance, is the need for us to blend our foods in the correct proportions for optimum uptake of nutrients for cellular requirements.

 

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2.  Supplementing your diet

Over the many years of farming agricultural land, soils have become severely depleted.

So the fresh foods available to us in these times are in many instances, highly fertilized and treated with herbicides, pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals.

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Our so called fresh foods are lacking in key and trace nutrients. To be proactive and take responsibility for your nutritional health, consider supplementing your diet.

Dietary supplements include:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbals and botanicals which provide phytonutrients
  • amino acids
  • enzymes.

Important questions to consider when supplementing would include, what to take, when to take it, in what combinations should supplements be taken and the use of water rather than other liquids for consuming them.

3.  Hydrating

Many of us, I know I do, forget to drink sufficient water during the course of the day. Our bodies are made up mostly of water. So it is vital that we drink water to replace what is lost through perspiration or excretion for example.

But not only water is lost during these processes. Electrolytes are those vital chemicals needed for proper functioning of our heart, kidneys, nervous and muscular systems among other functions. These electrolytes are soluble in water. This means that when we lose water from the body, we lose electrolytes.

It is vital for us to replace the electrolytes as well as the water.

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When hydrating the body, we need to drink lots of water as well as electrolytes. An extremely good isotonic drink or good natural source of electrolytes is coconut water.

4.  Fasting occasionally

Eating and drinking are critical for life. However sometimes the body becomes overworked and overloaded.

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To compensate for these times, controlled fasting is necessary. Fasting times help eliminate toxins and gives the body time to recover after periods of “abuse”.

5.  Sufficient rest and sleep

We live in times where we never seem to have enough  time to do the things we feel we have to do. This leads to sacrificing our sleep time to complete tasks, watch television, catch up on social media or meet deadlines.

But, our bodies are like machines. They need to be cared for like we look after our cars or computers. One of the ways to keep the machinery well oiled for us is to get sufficient rest and proper sleep.

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Different people have different sleep needs. Determine your optimum amount and strive to attain that everyday.

6.  Exercise

Finally, having eaten, supplemented, drank, fasted and rested properly, we need to exercise.

Exercise produces “feel good” hormones. It eliminates toxins. It tones our muscles and increases our energy levels. It may also be a time for socialization or reflection.

Exercise should include cardiovascular activities, resistance training and flexibility training.

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Of course if you are over forty, like I am, consult a professional before beginning a new programme of exercise.

For more information on these steps, you may read Chapter 4 in my book, Bounce Back Better, 10+1 Key Steps for Building Resilience.

Let me know if you feel great even when you are not so great.

Zebra 101, Stark Contrasts!

Perhaps for me the most outstanding memory of being in Cape Town, South Africa, was the extremes between rich and poor. And perhaps most noticeable was that in as much as some things were different, some things were so similar to home.

The stark differences between the townships, like our local Beetham, and the residential areas was heartrending. Particularly when I viewed District 6 a few days later and saw the areas from which the people were relocated to the townships.

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The cultured speech and bearing of our driver was another contrast as he was well dressed, driving a Mercedes Benz van and going home to his makeshift room in a township.

The townships there in Cape Town consisted of three types of dwellings. There were the houses built by the government, very small and inadequate mind you.  There were the leased rooms  by those who had government houses and there were rented rooms that were like squatters rooms.

The squatters have started building two storey galvanised dwellings as space is definitely a problem in the townships.

My heart was filled with compassion. It is so difficult to see the conditions under which some of us have to dwell. It exists here in Trinidad too. It is so easy to judge others and yet it becomes so difficult to judge when their challenges are considered.

On the one hand though there are people who work hard and honestly to improve themselves and their families. On the other, there are those who turn to crime as a means of survival. What makes one person work assiduously with integrity and another become a criminal?

I was so moved by the performances of some of the young people that we were privileged to witness. We had spoken word performances, singing, musical entertainment, dance and an instrumental performance using buckets and drumsticks only!

Wow!! That is the best sentiment I can offer. Thank goodness my socks were only figuratively blown off. The centre at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens was unheated. I was the only person who had on gloves but I was still extremely cold.

The others suffered in silence except for when I was acknowledged as being smart enough to have gloves! They did not know just how unaccustomed I am to the cold!

The dedication, commitment, diligence, skill and talent of those young persons tugged at my heart strings. I literally cried after one dance performance. The pain was so clearly etched on their faces.

The excellence they achieved with solemn, focussed looks on their faces made me feel as one with them. I felt everything they were expressing and so I could not help but cry.

They performed in an elaborate setting with basic equipment and a tee shirt and pair of jeans or other trousers. Another contrast!

Yes! it is easy to choose to be filled with hate and anger and to be unforgiving but surely at some level we can find it in our hearts to find ways to deal with the unfairness and the beastly behaviour of some persons and not choose to hate a person simply because they bear similarity to another who may have caused pain or hurt.

Tell me how can one not be filled with love for fellow human beings when there is so much we have in common, whether white or black, global north or south, rich or poor…

Peace in Turbulent Times

How do we move past the deep wounds of our turbulent times?

How does one deal with sometimes multiple hurts and misfortunes, that accentuate the unfairness of life and circumstances?

How does a mother or father, a sister or brother, a son or daughter find it somewhere in the heart, the mind, the soul, to get to a point of peace after one or more grievances?

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When you have been dealt with the murder of a loved one, or the ravaging of your personal belongings or person by attackers and if at the same time, you lose your job or have other financial or health challenges, it becomes difficult to believe in the concept of peace and hope.

I have had to deal with multiple losses after a difficult time in my own life. My challenges were not greater or lesser than anybody else’s. They were my unique combination of trials, designed to shape or re-shape my thinking, my approach to life and my destiny.

It can be easy to lose your way and to stay forever lost. To miss out on the blessings and joys that are further along in your journey because you become stuck in the mire of hurt, pain and a lack of forgiveness.

The truth is that for a while remaining in that dark, messy and confusing place filled with anger and frustration is sometimes the best thing to do…providing that doing so supplies the fuel that is needed to create the driving force to pull yourself out of the downward force of negativity.

If you can come to the point of becoming an alchemist of sorts, turning the negative into shining positivity, then you would have found a peace and hope that becomes a beacon for others who have yet to meet their customised difficulties.

Of course bear in mind that good and bad circumstances in life are juxtaposed for greater appreciation of one over the other. This simply means always be alert that life can bring unexpected good or bad.

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So currently in our beloved country of Trinidad and Tobago, there seems to be a negative cloud of darkness overtaking our people. It seems that there can be no hope. It seems that at every turn there is violence, hatred, racialism, killing and destruction. Peace, love and forgiveness have become difficult concepts to grasp.

How can you tell a mother whose only son is brutally murdered that peace will come? How does she relate to forgiving the beasts in human form that committed that criminal act, forever changing the landscape of her life?

You don’t. At least not now. Not right away. She needs time to process. Time to digest and time to come to some form of understanding. The rest of us need to give her the gift of time to come to terms with what has happened. That time can only be determined by her but we will know when she is ready. She will let us know.

In the meantime, we must not allow ourselves to become like the very beasts we wish had never existed. What in their own lives must have molded them into the creatures of destruction that have manifested?

Martin Luther King Jr. and others have postulated that violence breeds violence. True words that are easy to overlook when faced with the harsh realities of murder, rape, kidnapping and other criminal acts.

But we are embarking on an even darker journey if we give in to our base desires for revenge. Violence by “peaceful” men only sends the wrong message to impressionable minds. We must find a peace through doing good not through destroying others, good or bad.

I am not suggesting that you forget the bad but that a way is found to propagate good in the face of evil. Will you stop planting roses or peas because the field is currently overgrown with weeds?

Or will you try to plant the roses or peas in an effort to replace the weeds with the crop?

Maybe not the best comparison but the idea is that peace and goodwill must not be abandoned in the face of seemingly unending negativity.

This morning let us reaffirm our faith in a greater good. Let us pray for a spirit of peace to overcome us all in spite of all the darkness surrounding us.

As we do this, reach out to others in peace and love.

Five ways that we can maintain equilibrium in devastating circumstances:

  1. Allow yourself to experience any feeling to its fullest. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way, at your own time.
  2. Live by the moment. Experience each moment for what it is or what it brings.
  3. Grow into acceptance of what has happened. Not an easy task but a realistic one.
  4. Slowly in your time, reset goals and action plans, short term initially until you get to the point of being able to think in longer time frames.
  5. Get enough rest, nutrition, exercise and hydration. Do not neglect your physical needs. You need to be strong physically so that your body does not collapse inwardly under stress.

Focusing on these five objectives helps to deflect thoughts onto positive pathways, bringing peace where there was only strife, frustration and hurt previously.

Let me know how you dealt with your particular situation or share with me the pain you may be undergoing that seems insurmountable. Someone else may be able to throw the lifeline you need to stay afloat until you can devote and self promote once again.

Yours in faith, peace and education, my friend.

Customer Service

Great Customer Service! In Trinidad that is an oxymoron. However I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised on Monday 5th June.

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There I was harassed and concerned about obtaining my International Visa Travel Card. I had joined a queue. You know how waiting multiplies times. Well… I felt that I had been there for a long, long time.

Just as I got to the top of the line, from almost nowhere, another bank customer rushed to the counter to “ask a question”. I was so annoyed but I kept my peace and waited to see what would be the outcome.

Thankfully, something wonderful happened. Something I hardly ever witness. The attending clerk very politely informed said customer that there was a line and everyone else was waiting to ask a question also.

I was relieved. I really thought that the person would have gotten through by breaking the line and it was a breath of fresh air to encounter fair customer service.

I got through but ended up having to visit another section in the same branch. Again, as I sat awaiting my turn, a hot and bothered woman rushed to the counter, with the look on her face that she was very busy and needed attending to right away.

There was already another customer at the counter, so I told her that she had to take a seat and wait her turn. Her response? “I just want to ask a question.” Well ‘dearie’ that is exactly what I was waiting to do as well. I shrugged and let her be.

The clerk noticed her standing impatiently in the way and addressed her with a pleasant, “Good morning”. That was her cue to rush in and “ask her question”.

Again I was fortunate to witness another moment of impartiality, rightness, courtesy, integrity…call it what you will, I witnessed it and was so pleased.

The clerk very nicely asked her to sit and wait her turn. She sat next to me and sought a sympathetic ear. I usually do lend such an ear but not this time. I could not condone her actions.

Would you believe that I witnessed yet another such incident mere hours later at another financial situation? My, my I just may have to reassess the level of customer service in Trinidad. It seems that slowly the apparently uncaring servers are evolving into people with a conscience and a kind, considerate and gentle disposition.

Kudos to those two financial institutions. My faith in humanity and goodness was nurtured on Monday.

Bounce Back Better

 

Are you at a crossroad in your life? Have you experienced the loss of a loved one or the loss of your job? Did you just go through a defining moment in your life such as a major ill health diagnosis, an accident  or trauma due to a violent attack?

Maybe you are feeling burnt out at work or have a sense of restlessness, like there is something missing.

If you are overwhelmed with uncertainty about the future or if a friend or loved one seems to be feeling like this, then my new book, Bounce Back Better is for you!

This book is highly recommended by Trinidadian educator and education consultant, Raymond S. Hackett. Here is what Mr. Hackett had to say about the book in his foreword:

As an educator for the past five decades and three years, I cannot honestly admit that I have read a book more comprehensive than and relevant to the times as Bounce Back Better 10 (+ 1) Key Steps for Building Resilience.  Inspired by the message and advice which characterise this book, I look forward to an outcome which will cause the general public, magistrates, judges, lawyers, members of the Lower House and the Senate of our Parliament, policemen, doctors, nurses, social workers, probation officers, teachers, particularly secondary school students above Forms One and Two, guidance officers, clinical psychologists, and last but not least advocates of Restorative Justice to read this third book which Caron Asgarali has written. Without doubt, it is prescribed reading for all.

Click on the link below to get your copy of Bounce Back Better, 10 (+1) Key Steps for Building Resilience.

https://www.amazon.com/Bounce-Back-Better-Caron-Asgarali/dp/1504368568

Let me know if you think you need a book like this right now in your life, in the comments below.

 

Relationship Tape

What a wonderful metaphor I encountered innocently last week!

One of my students claims that she is very clumsy. This I learnt as I observed that her 12 inch (30cm) ruler was broken and repaired with…scotch tape and her spectacles handles were taped to the frame as they had broken off sometime ago.

As we joked about her clumsiness, a thought hit me. Many things can be broken and repaired simply by applying tape or glue. I myself had broken my cell phone once and repaired it with tape. Many torn pages were held precariously together with tape or staples.

If only it were so simple to mend broken relationships!

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However relationships are formed between living, breathing, emotional beings. We grow into relationships, daily doing things to earn trust, to build rapport, to show support and to demonstrate our love for another human being or for that matter an animal, a pet.

The human ego , the psyche, is extremely fragile. Some more than others. It takes time to forge bonds. They are tested time and time again. And sadly in an instant of volatility, one mistake, one harsh word, one misunderstood emotion or one misstep can cause those carefully crafted to bonds to snap!

Perhaps it is a good thing that this type of breakage is difficult to repair. Had it been easier then less effort and time would be spent on trying to build rather than break down bonds.

What if there was some sort of relationship tape or staple or glue that  could be used to mend a broken relationship or heal a hurting heart?

After we laughed about this direction that our conversation had shifted into, it became clear that there is a way.

Of course nothing worthwhile comes without a lot of hard work. So this “relationship tape” comes through the practices of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

Each one of those is a huge mouthful for anyone. In today’s technologically advanced world, people have become worshipers of the Universe. Alternatively they claim to be atheists or highly open minded so that anything goes. Faith though is integral in any undertaking. We do things not knowing the final outcomes and that in itself is faith.

Spiritual faith gives us a freedom and strength to be able to release perceived or real hurts and helps us to see the good in spite of the bad. It provides for us a foundation of integrity, morals and values that is needed for the development of civility and social consciousness.

Humility, gratitude and forgiveness come with faith. That does not mean it comes easily. We are human and hence imperfect beings. No matter what our religious persuasion or faith may be, practicing these big guns of character definitions is difficult. Difficult not impossible.

By adopting a humble approach, we can see things with new lenses. We can learn to put others before self. Not easy by any standard but with daily practice it becomes more integrated into our behaviours.

Gratitude makes us cast a backward glance and recognize the good that others may have done for us, even the ones who are currently doing something to bring pain. It makes us see the small efforts, not just the large gestures.

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most difficult practices. But when we incorporate faith, gratitude and humility into our habits, then forgiveness comes much more easily.

Our “relationship tape” then is formed by the melding together of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

The next time you mend a torn page or stick a broken ornament, remember that relationships can be mended too…with the right “tape”.

 

I Made A Terrible Mistake

I made a terrible mistake when I mounted the platform to speak officially for the first time. I had been invited by a prestigious insurance company to one of their breakfast morning sessions to end the year at Christmas back in 2014.

I was nervous because I so wanted to impress the person who had invited me to speak. More than wanting to impress him, I did not want to let him down. I also felt that there was a lot at stake here. This was my first speaking engagement. If properly done, it could open so many other doors.

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Given the theme for the session, I gave it much thought. I tried to find a unique, pseudo-intellectual opening and angle. I wrote, re-wrote, added, subtracted and just kept changing so many times in an effort to have the perfect speech.

I tried memorizing the speech just a few days before. I knew what I wanted to say. I knew my personal story. But I wanted it to sound exactly the same as I had it written down.

On the morning of the event, I got up early. I dressed in an immaculate white pantsuit with a sky blue vest. My accessories matched the blue of the vest. My hair was well coifed and of course although no one would smell my speech, I sprayed my best perfume that morning.

I thought I looked pretty good, all things considered. I knew I smelt good. I had lost a lot of weight since 2013; it was about twenty pounds or so. The pair of trousers was a bit slack but it did not matter. It fit well and stayed up without a belt.

Anxiously, I packed up the car with copies of my book for sale as well as the roller banner that my mother had given me as a gift at the launch of my first book.

We got there very early. “There” was a local hotel which was very close to the southern coastline in Trinidad. The view was magnificent. The cool morning air was refreshing and eye-opening. The sea was calm and the whole atmosphere was peaceful.

Final arrangements were being put in place as we walked into the hall where the breakfast was being hosted. We were greeted like celebrities. A special seat was allotted to us. There was ample time for the banner and books to be put in place.

Soon enough, the programme started but first we were invited to have breakfast. Breakfast was good I remember but I honestly cannot remember the various items.  As we ate, a couple performed several songs, some local, some oldies not local. I was blown away by how good they sounded and by their performance. Speeches related to the annual insurance performances by the various agents and agencies were next.

Then it was time for the guest speaker…me! I went with my notes thinking that if I forgot or stumbled, I would have the notes to help me back on track. Big mistake. I got up in front everyone and, although I taught for so many years, I somehow got stage fright. I started to read my speech.

Sure I looked up and made eye contact. Sure I ad-libbed to some of my past students in the audience. But that did not change the fact that I read my speech. I knew my story so why did I do that? I must have panicked. I do not know for sure, but that must have been the reason.

I felt that I did not connect with my audience… and I most likely did not. I felt so disappointed with myself. I had let down the gentleman who had invited me. All they needed was a testimony. I went with the wrong approach.

The good thing about making that terrible mistake was that I learnt a valuable lesson. I could plan my speech but I must not read it. I should not even walk with prompts because I may just revert to reading them instead of speaking from the heart.

Since then I have planned my speeches. I know what my message is. I adjust the speech to suit the theme or the audience and then I talk…straight from the heart. I allow my personality to show (just a bit because I am not sure how many can actually handle my personality). I relate with the previous speakers. I make references to current events if relevant. Perhaps the most important thing that I do is to give praise to God in all that I do.

Making that terrible mistake the first time may have prevented any further engagements as a result of that event but, it taught me how to approach future speaking engagements.

How Victims of Gun Violence Cope

If you were a victim of gun violence, then this blog post is for you. I am reaching out to anyone whose life was drastically affected by an act of gun violence.

My story is told in part on my blog. You may read the older posts. I also wrote a book on my story of survival, pain and healing.

I would like to hear from you if you too suffered as a result of gun violence. I am particularly interested in how you coped, how the healing process is coming along for you and if you are now doing anything that you may not have done if you had not been shot.

The purpose of doing this is to start a blog series with stories from survivors. The intention is to provide stories that imbue hope for others who may be struggling to cope with a desperate situation. Through reading about the overcoming of adversity by others, perhaps someone might be able to make a positive change in their life.

Initially I am focusing on gun violence but I am willing to interview victims of violence generally.

If you are willing to be interviewed so that your story can inspire someone else, please leave a message in the comments below or you may email me at caron_asgarali@yahoo.com

The stories will be published with or without real names depending on your choice. Primary  (actually injured) or secondary (affected but not shot) victims are welcomed.

In my third book, I wrote about the value of deflecting attention away from yourself to help others. It really does work to help you heal when you help someone else. I look forward to hearing from some of you, as we take this leap forward to help others.

Leave a comment in the space below to let me know your thoughts.

Violence… a learned behaviour

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The response of violence to conflict is, to some extent, a learned behaviour. This statement includes gun violence.

It comes from a place of fear of being a target, fear of living daily with the threat of gun violence and fear of not conforming. That is a lot of fear.

Even before a crime takes place, guns, and the accompanying violence, play a significant part in the lives of those in communities with a reputation of violence.

The outcome of such fear and learned violent behaviour is a lack of respect for the value of life, individual, community and national life.

Those who suffer directly or indirectly from the effects of gun violence all reach to the same place emotionally and mentally.

This congruence of feeling and thought creates a hopeful opportunity. It ought to become the catalyst that gives us the will and courage to address the gun violence that is becoming a part of our daily life.

Religious leaders are casting blame on the lack of coherence of family units for the increasing violence in society.

Alternatively a family may be unified but their environment and learned responses of violence precludes the teaching of respect for anything including life.

One leader has included the availability of drugs and weapons as well as the existence of gangs as factors contributing to the rising violence and incidences of gun related crimes.

All of these are true. The reasons are valid and relevant.

However my aim (no pun intended) is not to cast blame or vent anger or frustration against the system or the perpetrators of violence.

Instead my aim is to amplify the message of the sanctity of life and the kind of respect each one of us needs to have for the life of another.

With every pull of a gun trigger, there emerges a bullet that may hit a living target.

That bullet may penetrate through tissue, tendons, nerves, muscles and bones causing physical damage in the immediate area.

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The kinetic energy of that compact piece of lead disseminates to surrounding organic matter causing further damage not immediately visible.

Similarly, that same bullet penetrates the psyche of the victim and his or her family, friends and associates, tearing their lives apart emotionally, spiritually, mentally, financially and in other ways.

The ripple effect of that nucleus of destruction is far reaching and has no time limits.

The learned behaviour of violence in response to conflict can be unlearnt. New, more peaceful responses can be learnt which lead to greater respect and harmony.

Your response?